Truancy is known to: Hamper academic achievement, pre‐ dict a range of school‐related problems and cause early school leaving. Hence, the development and implementa‐ tion of measures to tackle truancy are considered as important strategies to prevent early school leaving in Europe. Despite this, there is almost no comparative research which studies variation in truancy rates. This arti‐ cle relies on PISA 2012 data from 24 European countries to empirically answer two questions: (1) To what degree do truancy rates vary cross‐nationally? and (2) Do these differ‐ ences in truancy rates relate to characteristics of the educa‐ tional system? We found that between‐country truancy rates varied more than differences in early school leaving. Moreover, even after taking into account control variables such as economic development and youth unemployment rates, the ways in which educational systems select and group pupils are closely related to truancy rates.